Speed Reads

violence in Charlottesville

Trump apparently declined to call out white supremacists, neo-Nazis because he focused on 'law and order'

"Why doesn't President Donald Trump just unequivocally condemn white supremacists?" asks Associated Press Washington bureau chief Julie Pace. "It's a jarring question to ask about an American president. But it's also one made unavoidable by Trump's delayed, blame-both-sides response to the violence that erupted Saturday when neo-Nazis, skinheads, and members of the Ku Klux Klan protested in Charlottesville, Virginia." According to White House officials and Trump associates, Trump did not want to single out the white nationalists, for whatever reason.

Trump "consulted a broad range of advisers before speaking on Saturday, most of whom told him to sharply criticize the white nationalist protesters," The New York Times reports, citing a White House official. White House National Security Adviser Tom Bossert was "at the center of the discussion" and he "laid out the situation on the ground, including a description of provocations by both protesters and counterprotesters," the Times says, adding:

Two hard-edge economic populists — Stephen K. Bannon, the president's chief strategist, and Stephen Miller, a senior adviser — spoke with Mr. Trump repeatedly on Saturday, the person said, although it was not clear if Mr. Bannon had offered him advice on his comments. Mr. Trump listened attentively, according to another person familiar with the discussions, but repeatedly steered the conversation to the breakdown of "law and order," and the responsibility of local officials to stem the violence. [The New York Times]

Trump's response was based largely on his "own read of the hate-fueled melee with counterprotesters" and "deeply colored" by his initial briefing on the situation, which said various groups had entered Charlottesville and were protesting even though the white supremacists and neo-Nazis had planned the rally, The Washington Post reports, citing two people familiar with the response. Bannon was not in New Jersey with Trump, associates told the Post.

"Trump's approach Saturday — trusting his instincts, averting talk of white nationalism, and feeling no obligation to grapple with its consequences — echoed how the president responded last year to an endorsement from David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader who appeared in Charlottesville," the Post reports, and Trump has "shrugged off" mounting calls from Republicans and others to single out the white supremacists and neo-Nazis "as a politically correct distraction that would not give him credit for his original statement." You can read more about Trump's particular response at The Washington Post, The New York Times, and AP.